As you were taking down stockings and chugging the last of the eggnog last night, the San Diego Padres kept right on being the beacon for teams actually trying to win baseball games in 2021. They struck a deal to land former AL Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays, adding yet another potent arm to their ever-evolving starting rotation.
It was quite the move, as they sent four players Tampa’s way, headlined by talented young hurler Luis Patiño and catcher Francisco Mejia. That’s of note for several reasons for those who follow the Cincinnati Reds, as the Padres had been linked to a pair of Reds arms during their pursuit of rotation upgrades. Sonny Gray, for one, had been identified as a target of San Diego, though on the surface it would appear that the Padres addition of a pitcher of Snell’s caliber might take them out of the running for a Gray - or a Luis Castillo - addition, especially given how much it took from their farm system to make the deal.
While that could remove one particular suitor for the Reds rotation stalwarts (thankfully), it does appear the Padres are far from done making moves. According to The Athletic’s Dennis Lin on Monday, the Padres are deep in talks with the Chicago Cubs about ace Yu Darvish, too.
Even after landing Blake Snell, the Padres are deep into talks to acquire Yu Darvish from the Cubs, sources tell @PJ_Mooney, @sahadevsharma and me. If the deal is completed, multiple players would head to Chicago.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) December 28, 2020
There’s a bunch to unpack here, so let’s get to it.
For one, adding Darvish and Snell would then, finally, perhaps maybe kind of take the Padres out of any Gray pursuit for good. It would give them a loaded rotation both for 2021 and beyond, one that will pair with Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet eventually once both are also healthy and ready to roll, a rotation that should scare even the vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers.
Losing the Padres as a potential offload for Gray - which is a terrible thing to even mention given how Gray should be desirable for every team, Reds included, at his current age and salary - could well have ripple effects for the Reds offseason plans. Rumors abound that they’re slashing payroll in every way possible, something we’ve already seen with their litany of nontenders and the trade of Raisel Iglesias. With a shortstop still needed and an offensive boost required (let alone a backfill of jettisoned pitchers), moving Gray was seen as one of the few ways the Reds could offload some money and add a big league piece in return. However, so few teams out there are actively adding any payroll whatsoever, and losing the Padres as an option might stall those plans (at least, I hope so).
Finally, watching the Cubs, who are also in shed-dollars mode right now, move on from Darvish and the nearly $60 million due his way over the next three years would be a peripheral gut-punch, too. It shouldn’t be one, but it would - an ideal world would see both the Reds and the Cubs, solid roster-havers, spending money to make themselves better, but if they both have the same goal of shedding money to have more spending flexibility in the future, the Cubs sans Darvish would be getting there first. The hope here, though, is that perhaps that would be enough of a tank-job move by the Cubs to prompt the Reds to reverse course a tad and see that the NL Central, weaker than it was in previous years, is more ripe for the taking than ever, thereby making the idea of keeping Sonny and spending on a shortstop a palatable option.
It’s exhausting writing about the numerous ways baseball teams are actively trying to find ways to get worse, to be honest. That’s exacerbated by the Padres dealings, as it’s even more painful to know there are actually some teams out there actively trying to get better through paying good baseball players to play for them. Hell, they appear to even be the frontrunners for Korean star Ha-Seong Kim, a shortstop who would’ve, in theory, been a natural fit for the Reds, as well.
It’s the mid-pandemic world, though, so I suppose it’s something we’re just going to have to deal with for the time being. It’s clear that San Diego has become the market-maker this offseason, one whose moves will directly impact how the Reds themselves navigate the next few months.